Russia: what impact will digital conscription have?
The Russian State Duma has passed amendments introducing a digital central conscription register. From now on conscription notices can be delivered electronically. Commentators analyse the potentially immense impact of this step for the military and society.
Harder and harder to dodge the draft
“The key change is that seven days after the draft summons is entered into the electronic records, it acquires the status of ‘served’ — whether or not the person concerned has received the notice. ... In this way the Kremlin has eliminated the most common methods of dodging military service. Up to now it was enough to stop picking up your mail, lock yourself in your flat, not open the door to strangers or start working on a freelance basis. Now, it will no longer help to leave town either, and it will be impossible to flee Russia — from the moment a summons is issued to report for military service, the potential draftee is forbidden from leaving the country.”
Mobilisation becoming invisible
Recruitment could now become far more effective, Delfi surmises:
“If last year many stories and images emerged of mobilisations that didn’t go as smoothly as the Kremlin would have liked, this will now be avoided. ... Moscow could send an additional 200,000 to 300,000 troops to war to thwart the expected Ukrainian counter-offensive. 200,000 men is just 0.5 percent of the number on the register. It will be easy to disguise this number and spread it over all Russia. The electronic system also makes permanent mobilisation easier. In the spring 200,000 soldiers are called up, in the summer another 200,000 and so on.”
Chinese-style digital totalitarianism
LRT sees signs of Russia becoming a total surveillance state:
“Putin’s government took advantage of the pandemic to prepare for this totalitarian system. An extensive network of cameras was installed in the regions and personal identification systems were introduced. They were used to track down those who violated quarantine regulations, while the authorities gained much experience with various digital technologies. Russia is ready to adopt the Chinese experiences and implement them even faster and more strictly. After all, so the thinking goes, that’s what these wartime conditions call for. The Kremlin is preparing to introduce real digital totalitarianism.”
Journalist Maxim Trudolyubov speculates on Facebook on how Russian society will react:
“Those outside the country will once again ask why Russian society is not protesting. But it is protesting, just not in the streets like the French but in its tried and tested way: by fleeing. The stream of people leaving the country is just the tip of the iceberg. Most of the fleeing is happening within the country, because emigrating is expensive and difficult and people don’t want to leave. They are fleeing by transferring property to relatives, through tax evasion, by living in a ‘garage economy’ [undeclared work and mutual aid], by moving house, by avoiding giving a registration address, etc. ... This law gives society another strong motive to flee from the state.”
Progress in the service of regression
Opposition politician Lev Shlosberg sees not only the people but also progress threatened. In a Telegram post republished by Echo, he writes:
“One of the first consequences of the ‘digital recruitment’ and ‘electronic summons’ laws has been the exodus of many young people from online services, in particular the deletion of accounts on the Gosuslugi [Federal State Information System] website. I think there will be many consequences which will extend to bank accounts and other services. People will literally go underground. ... Technological progress in the service of political regression leads to more sophisticated repressive practices, not development.”